A Martian landing is gaining ground at NASA as astronauts and scientists prepare for a trek off of our home planet and onto Mars, where no human has ever stepped foot.
Over 40 students gathered at the NASA press conference held Friday, Oct. 14 at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Screens surrounding the crowd displayed plans to reach planet Mars and each step scientists and astronauts will have to take. A space suit was tucked in the corner with lights reflecting off of its golden visor. In this meeting, plans to touch down on Mars were brought to the public. These plans include three major categories: Earth Reliant, Proving Ground and Mars Ready.
“In a science perspective, it’s phenomenal,” said Mars Research Scientist, Dr. Elizabeth Rampe.
The Earth Reliant step will be closer to home and will involve the International Space Station, approximately 150 miles above the Earth’s surface. This is to make it easier to receive instructions and supplies within the first few missions. Each step presented is different based on how astronauts will be trained or conditioned to the change in surroundings.
“One of the main goals is to test systems on longer duration missions,” said leader of the Exploration Mission Planning Office, Joe Caram.
The Proving Ground step is focused on the Earth’s moon and how it can be used as a midpoint between Earth and Mars. Supplies will be shipped to the moon and held there for later transportation to Mars.
Caram said the mission would be 70,000 miles past the Earth’s moon to eventually reach Mars.
Finally, the last step for NASA is Mars Ready. This is when humans will be given the signal to touch down on Mars and make the first step into the red dust covering the planet. Scientists have discussed where to land and since the contact of the Curiosity Rover to Mars, have found around 50 exploration zones.
Shipment of supplies and communication between the Earth and Mars are concerns scientists involved in the Mars exploration have.
“Curiosity was one metric ton,” said Exploration Integration and Science Directorate, Michelle Rucker. “A human carrier is 20 metric tons to 40 metric tons. It’s going to be more difficult with all of the extra weight.”
This extra weight will be a hindrance to the amount of supplies taken on the shuttle.
“Taking all of the supplies is not practical,” Rampe said. “We are going to have to learn to make things on Mars.”
One of these resources will be water. Mars is also covered in Iron and other elements that will help in the production of supplies; this includes making the fuel to return home.
Also, the lag in communication was introduced by Rucker.
“You’re a budding journalist, right,” she said, motioning to a student. “Ask me a question.”
“Will you have enough supplies,” the student said.
“Hold that thought,” Rucker said. “I’ll have that answer in 45 minutes.”
Rucker used this as an example to show there will be 45 minutes of communication lag time between the Earth and the astronauts on Mars.
45 Minutes later, Rucker said no, we won’t have enough supplies.
NASA has plans to have physical human contact with Mars by the year 2030 and are accepting applications from people with a background in science and who are physically healthy.
Morton received honorable mention for this article at the 2016 Texas Community College Journalism Association.